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Natural Plaster Artistry – a Dang Long Haul – But Beautiful!

IMG_3363Well, they say this work is better done by younger people – it’s SO labor intensive, and the work, if it’s done artistically, requires repetitive movements of the wrist.

tree croppedAnd so I had to quit and heal my wrists for awhile – just didn’t realize I’d wear braces on them for six months and wait five years to return to the work!  (I’m 62.)

This is how we began, in 2010:

wall moveFirst, we had to move some walls, which left odd buttresses jutting out into the rooms.

So I called a friend who’d taught natural plaster application, Gavio, and together we decided to hide the worst-placed buttress with a tree sculpture (above).

Then I organized a Dory cropworkshop to teach the skills and get a little help.  The participants were great!  This is Dori.  (They didn’t suffer like I did, but no one was as fussy as me either, and I did work on the most detailed items, so perhaps it’s more than just age.)

Gavio sculpted the trunk out of branches, and I fussily commanded the perfect placement of other branches to be the actual branches of the finished sculpture, which I’d earlier collected, chosen, cleaned, sanded, and varnished.  (Again, see above.)

(Sorry I don’t have photos of that process, but in my next post, I’ll show photos of the same process done in the guest room.)


We mixed adobe and applied it to the trunk, beginning with “rough adobe” to approximate the shape, then “finish adobe” (every ingredient sifted through 1/4″ mesh) for the finish, and – optional – a selection of three natural earthen glazes for the tree-trunk and “alis” for thinly covering the walls and door and window arches.

Sounds easy!  And, in a sense, it was.  But there’s a lot to know – such as how to sense the perfect mix of sand and clay that will go on easily but not crack.  And a few natural additions to improve stickiness and inhibit mold while the mixture dries.

Once you know that, it’s almost like playing in mud as a child.  It’s natural and organic, it’s sensuous, and it calls out to be played with.  And so we did.  We couldn’t help it!

IMG_3397 w ovalFor instance, why create a flat adobe interior wall finish, when you can have flourishes around the sconces on either side of the tree?  (See inside the left oval to the right – that flourish has a shelf below, perfect for a small statuette.)

IMG_3398We built in bookcases, covering scrap lumber with adobe.

IMG_3410We put cat’s paws on the corners, just for fun.  (Gavio’s idea – I approved.)

IMG_3429 crop

And every doorway has an arch, which suits my desire to minimize or obscure rectilinearity!IMG_3401

And now, I’m healing my wrists again!  Wish me well.  (It’s been two weeks and some fingers are still tingling.  And yes, I’m getting medical advice.)

In my next post, Building an Adobe Tree, I’ll show photos of how we began the the first tree in the guest bedroom five years ago, to give you a sense of the sequence.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you won’t believe the amazing transformation!tree beginning